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Ill. Movie Distributor Loses Defamation Ruling

(CN) - An Illinois movie distributor was not defamed by a letter from a Canadian bank stating that Giant Screen Sports had defaulted on a loan, the 7th Circuit ruled.

The Illinois distributor specializes in large-format sports films. It signed a deal to with movie producers Sky High to distribute three movies: "Adrenaline Rush," "Ultimate Gs," and "Vikings: Journey to New Worlds."

In the process of securing insurance and financing for the movies, Sky High forged the signature of Giant Screen's president, Donald Kempf. Sky High settled the issue with the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) in return for its cooperation in helping to secure a $500,000 payment from Giant Screen under the falsified - but subsequently legitimized - distribution agreement.

A fusillade of lawsuits ensued, and Giant Screen appealed the denial of its defamation claim against CIBC for writing to its insurance company that Giant Screen had defaulted on the payment.

Judge Bauer of the Chicago-based federal appeals court ruled that CIBC's statements to the insurance company were opinions, not facts, and therefore not defamatory.

"If it is plain that the speaker is expressing a subjective view, an interpretation, a theory, conjecture or surmise," Bauer wrote, "rather than claiming to be in possession of objectively verifiable facts, the statement is not actionable."

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